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Giro Squadra Midterm Grades: Team-by-Miserable-Team

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An Update on the forecast

Firenze in Pink
Tim de Waele

More than halfway through the race and past the first round of serious challenges, we can get a pretty good sense of where things stand with each team. This won’t be brief so let’s jump right in...

Bahrain-Merida

Objectives: Overall win, stages

Forecast: Meh-be.

Grade so far: D

Vincenzo Nibali’s position in the pack isn’t a lost cause by any means, and he’s done some of his usual clever work, but seeing him go backward on the Blockhaus was not a promising sign. Also, did they not totally blow stage 11 (today) with Visconti in a strong position for the stage win? I didn’t watch this stage very closely so I am fine with being corrected here, but that seemed like a missed opportunity. Also for Nibali to show some interest in attacking, only to not work because “I don’t have any teammates,” makes you wonder if Bah-Meh had a plan today. Was it to help Nibali? If so, what the hell was Visconti doing in the break? Or was it to get a stage win, in which case, like I said, they blew that too (and maybe blew it even worse in stage 8). My hope is that the fairly extraordinary prospect of no Italian stage winners becomes such an unbearable weight on the few Italian leaders at this race that Nibali, recognizing that this is bigger than another maglia rosa, takes matters into his own hands.

AG2R

Objectives: Overall win, stages, KOM

Forecast: Unlikley, on all fronts

Grade so far: C

If you were skeptical enough to start with, you could totally give AG2R a fair grade here for being every bit as unnoticeable as you thought they’d be. In fact, Pozzovivo only shipped three minutes at the time trial and sits in ninth place, 4.05 behind Tom Dumoulin. Not enough to make me notice, but enough for me to not want to make fun of them. And I definitely didn’t see that coming.

Astana

Objectives: Stages

Forecast: Good bet.

Grade so far: B-

Definitely not giving up on them. Luis Leon Sanchez threatened to win stage 8 and was sitting in the leader’s throne for a while during the iTT. Also Tiralongo got into the 4th stage break. Then Kangert earlier today. They’re taking their shots.

Bardiani CSF

Objectives: Get attention without disgracing themselves or cycling.

Forecast: Blerg

Grade so far: B

The lack of doping positives in the race is... uh, no, I am not going to say anything. We can judge this six months after the race ends. Anyway, Andreeta has racked up a few combativity points for sticking it out in a couple breaks. Since nobody is actually rooting for them to win anything, I’d say this is a good outcome.

BMC

Objectives: GC podium, stages

Forecast: No and I guess.

Grade so far: C

Van Garderen’s GC demise was even less suspenseful than the hardened cynics would have forecast. Dennis was just about the first rider to go home, after a crash. But because they are BMC and they can’t stop winning even if they wanted to, Dillier went out and took a pretty entertaining sprint win from Jasper Stuyven in the Terme Luigiane stage.

Bora-Hansgrohe

Objectives: Sprint wins and random stages

Forecast: Middlin.

Grade so far: A-

Sam Bennett was supposed to be their big hope, and in fact he’s started to warm up a bit, beating Greipel on two occasions, but for third both times, behind Gaviria twice and Ewan once. So that may be his ceiling. And yet, I doubt anyone at Bora has stopped smiling after Lukas Postlberger’s Big Usurpation win and day in pink to open the race. It’s nice to have your bills paid in full with 20 stages remaining.

Cannondale-Drapac

Objectives: Maybe say hi to the GC? Or win a stage.

Forecast: [insert sarcasm]

Grade so far: C

Davide Formolo is 2.23 out of the White Jersey! I repeat, Davide Foromolo is 2.23 out of the White Jersey!!! Does that count as a World Tour victory? I mean, if something happens to Bob Jungels? Also he had it for a day. That’s a victory too, right? On a couple occasions Michael Woods looked primed for a possible stage win, and there are some nice climby events still left to fight for. Considering their investment in the ATOC (where Talansky is 48” out heading into Baldy and the ITT), I can’t be too harsh on them for their work at the Giro.

CCC Sprandi Polkowice

Objectives: Get noticed for anything, besides their horrible kits.

Forecast: Sure.

Grade so far: C

Instead of putting the same guy out there to compete for the Breakaway Classification, CCC have rotated people in and out of the breaks, including Biablocki, Tratnik and Owsian. Which makes their consistent presence in the breaks a little easier to forget. Which is the opposite of what they are trying for. Sigh.

Pinot and Nibali
Tim de Waele

FDJ

Objectives: All about Thibault. I mean Teaboh. Wait, Tebow...

Forecast: Strong but...

Grade so far: B+

Pinot looked extra frisky on today’s mid-mountain stage, when Nibali lifted the pace just to see if anyone was extra hurty after the time trial. That’s a very positive sign as he tries to emerge from the four-rider scrum of mountain guys who got smoked by Dumoulin in the time trial but are still sitting in a decent place. He hasn’t had a ton of help, but things haven’t gotten too serious yet, and Reichenbach has looked OK when I’ve noticed him. So when Movistar start grinding everyone down to the nub, Pinot may be the last to suffer.

Gazprom-Rusvelo

Objectives: Noticeability.

Forecast: If you set the bar low enough...

Grade so far: D

Do I care that Pavel Brutt has been in a couple breaks? Also what is it about eastern European mini-teams using horrible jersey colors to get noticed? At least UAE are content to blend in for the sake of fashion non-awfulness, and let their legs do the, um, talking.

Lotto-Soudal

Objectives: Stages

Forecast: Virtually assured.

Grade so far: B

Like clockwork, Andre Greipel bagged a sprint win at the earliest opportunity, spawning a couple days of discussion about his grand tour stage winning streak, which I brought up a couple days before anyone else, and which stretches back to 2008. Since then, Greipel has looked a bit slow, and I am 100% convinced he will go home on Saturday. Lotto will have nothing left to live for here, but they’re Belgian, they know how to win a stage if you don’t try to stop them.

Movistar

Objectives: Overall win.

Forecast: Hmmm...

Grade so far: B+

I’m a Nairo homer, so you can adjust the grade accordingly, but Quintana won the one stage that he could win, and there was nothing his team could have done to get him in better shape for the time trial. Since these are team grades, the fact that they are the dominant squad and that their guy is still a decent bet to win the overall is generally in their favor. But they may have to take a few more risks in trying to put Dumoulin on his heels over the next week. He’s not going to quit just because the road gets steep.

Orica-Scott

Objectives: Overall win or podium, stage sprints

Forecast: Strong on both scores (except maybe for the win)

Grade so far: D-

Ewan’s stage sprint win in Alberobello has both spared the team from total dismay and highlighted the fact that he’s maybe the fastest guy in the race, begging the question where the hell was he in Sardinia and elsewhere in Week 1? Then the Yates/Thomas Blockhaus debacle and Matt White’s polemica in a pint glass, and there is pretty much nothing to like about how this Giro has gone for the Aussies.

Quick Step

Objectives: Stages, sneaky GC threat

Forecast: Obviously.

Grade so far: A

Bob Jungels might not be a long-range GC threat here, but he was enough of one to wear the maglia rosa for five days, inheriting it from Fernando Gaviria, who has a vise-grip on the maglia ciclamino if he decides to ride to Milan. Gaviria’s development as a points jersey threat was one of the story lines we spent the most time on beforehand, and it’s worked out pretty nicely for the Colombian. They also have the Trofeo Super Team competition (points-based) firmly in hand. If there could be a more Belgian performance at the Giro, I haven’t imagined it yet.

Dimension Data

Objectives: Just do good bikey stuff

Forecast: Yah OK boss.

Grade so far: A!

Before Omar Fraile became a worldwide household name, Daniel Teklehaimanot was in the breaks and racking up various points with such frequency that I learned how to spell his name correctly without even looking. Fraile’s success should keep them floating on clouds until the shit gets real in a few days. It’s hard to see how this Giro doesn’t rate as a success in the end though.

Katusha-Alpecin

Objectives: GC contention, something something.

Forecast: Unconvinced.

Grade so far: F+

Zakarin is on the precipice of irrelevance, sitting 10th overall as the mountains start. The high point for the team so far has been when Zakarin took 20 seconds from the GC guys on Etna, which he was allowed to do because he threw away roughly the same amount a day earlier by being a doofus on stage 2, where he had a mechanical, chased back, then let a split happen. I suppose things could be worse though...

LottoNL-Jumbo

Objectives: Overall win

Forecast: No but maybe a podium.

Grade so far: F

Do Dutch fans get invested in these guys anymore? They have a lot to cheer for at this race, just none of it decked out like bumble bees. Kruijswijk has been the I-told-you-so-but-hoped-I-was-wrong disappointment of the Giro, surpassing even Zakarin in his inexplicable goingbackwardness. But let’s be mature about this: this is how grand tours work in the real (re: not doped) world. Guys can hit perfect form and be world-beaters, like Kruijswijk was a year ago, minus one diabolical snowbank, but more often than not that perfect form proves elusive, and any bit of slippage is catastrophic in a race this hard. So I don’t disrespect Cruiseship for his work so much as lament it.

Sky

Objectives: Overall win.

Forecast: I was 100% convinced this would happen.

Grade so far: C

Anyone looking to relitigate the events of the Blockhaus stage can stop by the post-race thread there, or even the race thread, where we hashed out all sorts of feelings regarding the merits and fate of Geraint Thomas. I am not giving them the F- that I should based on their prospects alone, even though I started out intending to, because this exercise has evolved into more of a merits discussion, and Thomas’ crash isn’t really a team failure per se, unless you want to punish everyone who doesn’t hold the perfect pack position at all times. It was shit luck, and it’s only gotten worse since then. Thomas should seriously go home if he’s feeling the effects of his injury, and Landa is breakaway fodder at this point. Rosa left, Kiryienka’s ITT wasn’t much, and Puccio has no business in the sprints. Thankfully they have a fifth Tour de France win waiting for them in two months to wash away the bad taste of the Giro.

Tom Dumoulin Tim de Waele

Sunweb

Objectives: Well...

Dumoulin will shoot for a high GC finish and would love to win that Wine Trial.

Ya don’t say?

Forecast: [Nodding.]

Grade so far: A++

“Win” seems a bit tepid for what Dumoulin did to the Wine Trial. Chugged it down in one swig, wiped his mouth on the maglia rosa, and smashed the bottle over the bumper of the Movistar team bus, is more like it.

Trek-Segafredo

Objectives: GC and Points

Forecast: Skeptical eyebrow raised.

Grade so far: B

Given my down-rating of Nizzolo’s Ciclamino defense, I’d say they have performed pretty well, even with Nizzolo going home, taking his tarnished points credentials with him. The Gaviria Era has begun and there’s nothing the likes of Nizzolo can do about it. But! Mollema was someone I didn’t give much credit to for the first week, before thinking a little harder and starting to backtrack furiously. I don’t think he can or will win, but he could put a pretty serious fright into everyone on the podium.

UAE-Team Emirates

Objectives: My kingdom for a stage win

Forecast: Didn’t hate it.

Grade so far: C-

Costa was in pretty good position today, and I’m sure he had stage 11 circled on his calendar, once they gave up on the farce of him placing high on the GC. Just didn’t quite have the legs to finish it, and ... got outsprinted by a semi-obscure Spaniard. So while I think they’re doing what they came here to do, and that merits a decent grade, the fact that they lost to someone they should beat 95 times out of 100 cuts sharply the other way.

Wilier-Selle Italia

Objectives: Get noticed, not be discussed in the same sentence as Bardiani.

Forecast: How hard can that be?

Grade so far: B

Mareczko showed some hops in the Alberobello sprint, which is encouraging if he sticks around and some of the others don’t. Zhupa has set a modern record for most mentions of an athlete from Albania, excluding soccer games played by the Albanian national team. The burden of an Italian stage win will fall on them before long, and they won’t be able to do much about it, unless everyone gets sentimental and lets Pippo Pozzato away on a transitional stage. Which I really, really hope happens.

Pozzato enjoying the scene
Tim de Waele